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The third-scariest thing I’ve ever done (and why it was awesome)

[ 0 ] October 31, 2016 |

Ignite Retreat 2016 was frickin’ amazing. I hate that so many people missed it, so I want to share some of the highlights. But first, I want to tell you what a huge thing it was for me to plan and host this retreat. Not only was it an enormous leap in terms of talking to people, being seen, and stepping up to be a leader, but it was also the most money I’ve ever gambled on an idea of mine (by far!).

If you have a vision for a more-awesome version of yourself, and you want it fast, I highly recommend taking on a project like this–something that’s completely out of reach for your old self. Douse the ships in kerosene, strike a match, and jump. You will grow more in a few weeks than most people do in years or a whole lifetime.

Of course, there are more gentle ways to transform yourself, and I recommend those, too. But sometimes the berserker method is what it takes. As stuck as I was, I don’t think I ever would have made it out in baby steps. I had to jump.

Ignite Retreat in the Smoky Mountains

So, what awesome things can you get from the retreat, even though you weren’t there? I can say with absolute sincerity that there were so many, it’s hard to pick. But the one that seems most important to me right now is so deceptively simple, it’s easy to miss: you don’t have to be afraid of the truth.

Why would anybody be afraid of the truth? It may seem ridiculous, but we do it all the time—at least, I do. Let me give you some examples.

  • Every month when money was tight, I’d put off paying the bills as long as I possibly could. I was afraid that the truth was that I couldn’t pay them. I was afraid of that truth, so I ran from it every month.
  • When I was in a craptacular marriage, I spent a whole summer barely thinking or moving at all. I was so afraid that I had made a huge mistake in getting married again, I couldn’t even admit the fear to myself. I didn’t want to see it or know it, so I hid.
  • Even just last week, I swanned around all week not doing anything. I claimed that it was because I was tired from the retreat, but really, I was afraid—and I was afraid to find out what it was that I was afraid of. So instead, I just stayed stuck.

Let me tell you, I’ve been stuck in a lot of different ways, and this one may be the worst. It feels so heavy and boggy and insurmountable. The worst part is, unless you really pay attention, it’s easy to have no idea it’s going on at all.

What do you do when you’re in that place?

The way out is to face the truth. And the surprise is that it’s usually very quick and amazingly small compared to what you imagined.

Here’s the thing. We know these truths already. We just refuse to see them. That’s why, when we finally do face them, the only thing that surprises us is how small and unsurprising they are. That and how much less they hurt than we were expecting.

And here’s the other thing: the people around us know them, too. In my experience, the harder you’re trying to hide something, the more certain it is that everyone else already knows it.

That’s actually great news, because it means you can stop fighting so hard to protect yourself. Whatever truth you’ve been afraid of, you can let yourself see it, and you will be ok. And the people around you have probably been dying for you to see it, because they’d love to help you. (If not, you may want to get some different people around you.)

If you feel like you may have a truth that’s waiting to come out, the first step is becoming willing to see it. This is a decision you can make any time.

Then, do whatever you do when you need to get clear on something. For me, that’s writing. If my thoughts are a muddle or I don’t know what I think about something, I can always find out by writing every thought that comes to mind in a stream-of-consciousness free-writing blast. (This isn’t writing that you intend to be Good Writing or ever plan to show to anybody. Its sole purpose is to clear your head.)

If writing doesn’t work for you, it may be something else. You could try taking a walk, going for a drive, or taking a shower. For some people, doodling or music can help.

Another option is to try to explain it to someone. If you know someone who truly wants the best for you and is good at listening, you can tell him or her that you’re trying to figure something out, and you’d like some help. Be sure to explain that you’re not asking for insights or solutions, just a sounding board. And then start talking it through. As you explain it to this person, you’ll explain it to yourself.

With the right person, this approach can also have the happy side-effect of bringing you closer together. I tried this with my mom one time when I was upset about something that had nothing to do with her, and it changed our whole relationship. Apparently, she used to think her ideas and suggestions were the only thing she had to contribute, but once we had this conversation and she saw how much she helped me just by listening, she started listening all the time. I love calling her now. The key was telling her that I needed her to listen so I could figure something out, so don’t skip that step.

Whichever approach you take, stay open.

If you find yourself getting tense or trying to squeeze the truth out of yourself, relax. Lean into your willingness to see the truth. Trust that it will come to you. If you need to, take a break and try again later. You may find that your insight will come to you when you stop trying and just let your mind wander.

In my experience, once I’m truly willing, I generally have my answer in less than an hour. For my post-retreat slump, it was seriously eight sentences, and I had it. Another 10 minutes of writing, and I also had a plan for what to do about it—not to mention an incredible feeling of lightness and freedom!

If you’ve been finding yourself stuck, especially if it’s the heavy, boggy-feeling kind of stuck, I hope you’ll try this. It’s amazingly powerful!

If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few questions that may help. Feel free to use any that feel right, or none at all.

  • What am I hiding from?
  • What am I afraid to admit?
  • What am I afraid will happen?
  • What’s getting on my nerves right now?
  • What other time in the past does this feeling remind me of?

If you need support with this, join me for my next webinar! There will be Q & A time at the end, so you can get your questions answered.

Meanwhile, here’s to the freedom that comes from facing the truth! Not everyone is brave enough to seek it, but I know you are. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. Thank you for being that kind of person, and thank you for being you!

P.S. You may be wondering: If putting together the Ignite Retreat was the third-scariest thing I’ve ever done, what were the first two? The scariest thing I’ve ever done was letting people see the real me (ongoing project, started circa 2008). The second-scariest was quitting my job to run my own business. Hard to believe that was five years ago this summer!

About Cara Stein: I'm a Breakthrough Coach and Creative Director On Demand. I'm also an idealist who has stopped trying to play it cool. I offer alignment, clarity, and unshakeable belief in yourself—and then I help you bring your vision to life with great sales copy and graphic design.

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